Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion
Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion (A)
April 17, 2011
Text: Matt. 26:1-27:66; LSB 438: “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth”
Beloved in the Lord, “A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth, The guilt of sinners bearing” (LSB 438:1). “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29; ESV). He is the true Passover Lamb, sacrificed for your sins (1 Cor. 5:7). By the blood of this Lamb, the angel of death passes over. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Is. 53:7). He does not cry out in just complaint. He trudges on to Golgotha, bearing the cross, “laden with the sins of earth” (LSB 438:1). “Hosanna,” save now, we pray, O Lord. And He does, in this way: He bears the burden of your transgressions in His innocent suffering and death on your behalf. No one can help Him bear this burden. He must bear it alone if He is to atone for the sins of the world. In the account of the Passion of our Lord read this morning, we see His determination to save us, His determination to suffer, His determination to reach the goal of the cross. He knows there is no other way. So He goes patient on, though growing weak and faint, more so with every step. He trudges on to slaughter. He has done nothing deserving of death. Pilate washes his hands of Jesus’ blood. He knows the sentence is unjust. This Lamb is spotless. But the blood must be shed, that it may be on us and on our children (Matt. 27:25). So He bears the stripes, the wounds. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed” (Is. 53:4-5). On top of the physical torture, He bears the rejection of His people. “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11). They bore false testimony against Him. He bore their lies, their mockery. Yet He replies from the depths of divine love for all people, for you: “All this I gladly suffer” (LSB 438:1).
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). This Lamb is Christ, your soul’s great friend. The Lamb of God lays down His life for you, for your salvation. The Father sent Him for this very purpose, that He might reconcile you to the Father; that He might make you God’s own child, united by Baptism and faith to the Father’s only-begotten Son; that He might free you from your dread of guilt and condemnation, from sin, death, the devil, and the yawning jaws of hell. This was no easy task. Even though Jesus is God, He became man, took on real human flesh in the womb of the Virgin, for this very purpose, that He really suffer and really die to save you. By His Passion, His suffering, you are blessed to share the fruit of His salvation. He comes willingly. “Yes, Father, yes, most willingly I’ll bear what you command Me” (LSB 438:3). “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10; KJV). “(N)ot my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42; ESV). “My will conforms to Your decree, I’ll do what You have asked Me” (LSB 438:3). The Father’s plan for your salvation is the Son’s plan for your salvation. It is the unified act of the divine will that reaches into this mess of sin and death and hell and snatches you out of destruction. Jesus does this by Himself being destroyed. The sinless Son of God suffers the punishment for all sin. God’s wrath is poured out completely upon Jesus on the cross. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). “O wondrous Love, what have You done! The Father offers up His Son, Desiring our salvation” (LSB 438:3). For this love is strong to save. Love holds our dear Lord Jesus to the cross. He could come down at any moment, but He does not. Because He loves us. He suffers for us. He dies for us. Mystery of mysteries, the Word incarnate, the Creator, the Maker of heaven and earth, lies in a tomb. And we, who should rightly inhabit the grave, we live. By grace.
And you, beloved, are baptized into this reality. You now come before the throne of glory tasting the kingdom’s pleasure, receiving the true body and blood of this Lamb in your mouths for your forgiveness, life, and salvation, covered by the blood of Christ as your royal robe. What joy beyond all measure! Christ is risen, and even as His death is your death, His life is your life. Because Jesus suffered your death, death will not be able to hold you. You, also, will rise from the dead on the Last Day. And you will stand before the throne of the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, and Christ’s own righteousness shall be your crown. You will be counted as royalty. You no longer have any need to hide from God, as Adam and Eve did in their sin, as you would have to do (as if you could) had Christ not covered you with His blood. Indeed, now His righteousness covers you as a radiant garment. Your sin-stained robes have been washed white in the blood of the Lamb. You are the Church of God, the Bride of Christ. And because He loved you and gave Himself for you, you will now be brought to Him to stand beside Him for all eternity.
Let not your impatient flesh deceive you. It is good that this morning we have come face to face with the cross of Calvary, the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is good that we heard again the Passion account, read in its entirety from St. Matthew, without interruption. Because this is THE determinative event for us. This is a matter of eternal life and death. We dare not turn a deaf ear to this. This morning we enter upon Holy Week, an intensely holy time for Christians. There will be many church services this week. We are called especially this week to devote ourselves to the hearing of the Scriptures and preaching, to meditation and prayer, and the reception of Christ’s body and blood. Don’t rob yourself of this blessed comfort by not coming to the services. Come as much as you can this week. Because here you will encounter your crucified Lord in the flesh, speaking to you, personally and individually, forgiving your sins, and feeding you with the fruit of His sacrifice. We must take up our cross and follow Him. We must go the way of the cross if we are to come to the empty tomb. We must travel through Good Friday if we are to come to Easter. But do not fear. All this He suffers for you. And in His suffering and death and resurrection you have the eternal blessing: Life, salvation, and the forgiveness of all your sins. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.